With the glorious return of playoff hockey, I felt the urge to play some PS3 puck. Unfortunately, NHL 06 looks shitty on a flat screen TV, and that was enough of an excuse to go out and buy NHL 09. I'm not sure when they overhauled the control system, but after getting used to it, I love it. The right joystick is now used for shooting (flicking down to wind up and forward to fire) and for checking. The right joystick is also used to control the stick on breakaways. It adds an extra layer of difficulty when you're trying to be Charlie Conway on a breakaway (it's especially annoying that if the game ever goes to a shootout, the computer AI does the same gay move where they drag it behind them until the last second and then tuck it under the goalie's 5-hole. I have no idea how to do this). That's probably my only gripe (also, the fighting system kind of stinks). The graphics and flow of the game is amazing. The checking engine is the best I've ever seen. When players are skating forward and the defensemen hip checks them, they can flip over and slide down the ice a bit. Every hit feels real and animation is fluid. Yep, the new edge Unis are in the game, and the player faces look better than ever. The defensive AI is really smart and doesn't let you walk into the slot for a goal. You really need to work the puck around and find open men, because they will tie you up, block passes, and poke check anything around them. Still, there's always been 2 things that have bugged me about hockey games of the past (we've owned NHL 94, 95, 96, 97, 98,2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, and 2006)
- Deflections: Past games have never tried or have failed to get deflections right, but they are so important in real hockey. Thankfully, in NHL 09, shots from the point are often tipped on their way to the net. And they can go anywhere. Shots can be deflected down, up, left, right, on net, way off net, anywhere. If a shot is heading wide (they often do), skilled guys like Malkin can steer it back towards the net with a tip. It's great.
- The Power Play: In the old days, a power play never meant a change in tactics. In real life, the PP means strategy. Shots from the point through a screen, passes around an umbrella to get the goalie out of position, etc. But in video games, you did the same thing you always did, which was usually setting up one-timers in transition. In 09, because the AI is so adept at clogging passes and shots in the slot, you need to stop and set up an attack. And when you're killing a penalty, they set up a proper PP against you as well.